A well known music teacher is facing federal sex trafficking charges in New York City after authorities charged him with a history of seeking sex acts from girls as young as eight years old.
Investigators with the Department of Homeland Security arrested Oliver Sohngen, the founder and director of the Long Island City Academy of Music, Tuesday after he attempted to solicit sex with an undercover agent posing as a 15-year-old girl. Prosecutors say there is no evidence Sohngen abused students at his school but said there is a clear pattern of him offering to pay for sex with girls ranging in age from eight to 15-years-old, reports CBS New York.
“Text messages were disturbing, and this was something they flagged as an individual who showed propensity for younger victims, and who was going out of his way to negotiate access to minors,” Deputy Special Agent in Charge Peter Fitzhugh told CBS New York.
Fitzhugh said the case was one of the most shocking he’s come across in his career. Sohngen would allegedly take children to places like Chuck E. Cheese to avoid suspicions. Authorities searched the school and his home after the arrest for additional evidence.
“It’s so shocking for us,” Shera Sunico, an employee at a coffee shop Sohngen regularly frequented, told CBS New York. “Of course it’s heartbreaking too. Whenever he comes here, he talks to us, he sings.”
Sex trafficking schemes involving underage girls is a growing problem in New York City. Authorities arrested eight members of the Rendon-Reyes gang in Brooklyn in April on charges of human smuggling and sex trafficking of minors, which they allegedly participated in for a decade. Detailed statistics on human trafficking are difficult to assemble, but officials estimate thousands of women are trafficked into New York each year.
Officials say there is a resurgence of shady massage parlors promising “happy endings,” which are at the center of sex trafficking in the city.
“Human trafficking is up 50 percent in the city alone — that’s a huge red flag that this issue is permeating and it needs to be addressed aggressively,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican running for mayor, told Staten Island Live Monday regarding the massage parlors. “Unfortunately, we know that this is a human trafficking issue, it’s not just prostitution.”
Officials in New York City say poor enforcement of immigration laws is aiding the human trafficking business. Women are often kidnapped from other countries and subsequently brought to the U.S. Their lives and the lives of their families are threatened in order to terrorize the victims into obedience.
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